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A Fixer-Upper's Guide to Renovating Your Fraternity House


Let’s paint a picture of the sordid state of your fraternity house, shall we?

It’s like something out of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House: The roof rafters in the common area den are maddeningly off canter. A few of the deck railings are loose (as guests sometimes discover). The stairs creak and groan. There’s that weird food stain Peter left on the carpet--you don’t remember what it is and, with the strange color it’s morphed into over the past few months, you’re afraid to ask. The heating barely works, so that in the dead of winter you and your brothers are walking around your house bundled up like you’re on a ski slope. The study area smells like mold and is way too small. The sprinklers may or may not work. And, oh yeah, you’re pretty sure the house is haunted.

Makes for spooky Halloween-themed socials! But sadly, in mid-July when summer classes are in full swing, things that go bump in the night and keep you awake aren’t exactly helping your GPA.

This exaggeration has been brought to you by OmegaFi. But you get our point. Especially if your fraternity house is on the older side, and hasn’t undergone previous renovations, that quaint Victorian feel might start to make you feel like you’re about to get a bout of scurvy.

Luckily for you, we’ve got just the cure with our Fixer-Upper’s Guide to Renovating Your Fraternity House.

Step 1: Assess the Damage and Draw a Plan

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The first thing to figure out when you’re looking at renovations is the scale of the project. If there are smaller issues that can be tackled by the chapter, you should approach those on a case-by-case basis. For instance: The walls are looking out of date and chipped up from years of rowdy brothers bouncing around the house. But maybe you could assign the task to a team of brothers to spackle and repaint instead of going in for a costlier solution. Also, what aspects of the house really need renovation, and which could be improved simply by a deep cleaning or some outdoor landscaping?

Are any of your alumni carpenters or contractors? Enlist their help with, say, installing new ceiling fans, building a fireplace or fixing that rotting deck that someone stepped a hole through last semester. (Be sure to get all this approved beforehand through the appropriate channels, of course.) Be nice to them. Offer them revelry and, preferably, payment for their services rendered.

However, not all renovations are going to be as simple as Home Improvement’s Tim Taylor pulling out his tools and grunting his way through some repairs. Some jobs are too big for the chapter. That’s when you should get in touch with nationals, the house association and alumni to talk about hiring a professional.

Step 2: Bring in the Pros

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You and your fraternity brothers may be capable of handling a lot of repairs and things of that nature on your own. However, the gap of knowledge between undergraduate brothers and trained professionals for large-scale house renovations is, very likely, a large one.

But you guys are way more intuitive than Tim Taylor, who never knew when to call a professional. You’ve learned from his antics of sucking the wallpaper off the walls with an overpowered vacuum cleaner . . . or whatever.

First off, big renovations cost big money. You aren’t going to pull that out of brothers’ membership dues, unless you all want to have no money for the foreseeable future and have loan sharks coming after you with Louisville Sluggers, referring to you affectionately as “wise guys.”

You can ask your national organization if they have a fund set aside for house renovations, and they might surprise you by saying yes. However, it may not be enough depending on how comprehensive the project is--for instance, if you have to add an entire wing to the house and update pretty much everything, essentially building a new house from the old one.

To avoid all that nonsense you’re going to want to turn to a professional fundraising organization like Pennington & Company. Why? Simply put, you’re going to have to raise funds a big project like this. And while you could certainly go it alone, professional consultants can help guide you and lend legitimacy to your efforts in crucial ways. They’ll help with assessing the feasibility of the project, capital campaign management, strategic assessments, web presence and visibility of your campaign, and how to maximize alumni relations and donations, among other services.

At the same time, you’ll be happy to know your overall chapter budget is being properly maintained if you use OmegaFi’s Vault financial management software, so you can place more focus on your fundraising efforts.

There’s really no question. When you’re looking to raise money for a major renovation of a fraternity house, professional guidance is a must.

Step 3: Maintain, Maintain, Maintain

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To maximize the life of your renovation efforts, you’re going to want to make sure brothers maintain the house in pristine order. You may want to amend the chapter house regulations to include duties tailored to house maintenance. For instance, your sparkly new house will lose most of its sheen if there are burger wrappers and soda cans in the hedges. The thing brothers are not often told about house renovations is that you have to live up to the image of your house. This means keeping spaces clean, and yes, dusting once in a while. It means a lot more work than previously when the house was kind of a wreck anyway. If you haven’t before, hiring professional cleaning and landscape services may be necessary from here on out, depending on how much brothers can tackle on their own between classes and work. Finally, be sure to thank and recognize all alumni and others who donated to the cause, and make sure they know the door they helped build is always open to them.

Once you apply these steps to the process of renovating your fraternity house, you’ll be glad you did. So go kick back, take a nap in that brand new huge chapter library, and when you wake up let us know about your experiences with renovating a fraternity house.


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